NASA will reveal the science instruments that will be aboard its next Mars rover on Thursday (July 31), and you can follow along live online.
Space agency officials will unveil the science gear they've chosen for the rover, which will launch toward the Red Planet in 2020, on Thursday at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT). You can watch the announcement live here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV.
Participating in Thursday's press conference are:
— John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for the NASA Science Mission Directorate (and a former astronaut)
— Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the NASA Human Exploration and Operations Directorate
— Michael Meyer, lead scientist, NASA's Mars Exploration Program
— Ellen Stofan, NASA chief scientist
The body of the 2020 Mars rover will be based heavily on NASA's Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the Red Planet since August 2012. Curiosity has already determined that an area near its landing site was capable of supporting microbial life billions of years ago.
NASA officials have said they want the 2020 rover to search for signs of past Mars life and collect soil and rock samples for eventual return to Earth, where scientists can study them in detail. The six-wheeled robot should also advance the agency's goal of putting boots on the Red Planet someday, by assessing resources that could support a manned outpost as well as look into the risks future Mars explorers may face.
The space agency received 58 instrument proposals for the 2020 rover during its call for submissions, which opened in September and ran through Jan. 15. For reference, Curiosity is outfitted with 10 different science instruments.